A Marathon Runner Chases Down The American Dream

At the end of his career, Mebrahtom Keflezighi’s triumphant immigrant story inspires.

Mebrahtom Keflezighi during the 2012 London Marathon. Photo by cdephotos/Flickr.

This past Sunday, Mebrahtom Keflezighi competed in the New York City Marathon for the final time at the ripe young age of 42. Though he finished 11th, with a final time of 2:15:29, it was a fitting end to a storied career, one in which he snagged a silver medal in the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, a first-place finish in the 2009 New York City Marathon — the first American to do so since Alberto Salazar in 1982 — and another first place finish at the 2014 Boston Marathon, one year after the bombing.

Born in Eritrea, Keflezighi’s family fled the country during its war for independence from Ethiopia, a bloody and brutal conflict that lasted 30 years and was not resolved until 1993. (His father, Russom, backed the separatists.) They relocated to San Diego, and he eventually received a scholarship to attend UCLA, earning his citizenship after he graduated in 1998. Per Sports Illustrated, all his victories and the slew of records he’s set while remaining free of any allegations of doping — including an improbable first-place finish during the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials at the age of 36 — led many younger runners to grow up idolizing him.

As Bob Larsen, who brought him to UCLA and continues as his current coach, told the Los Angeles Times, “For Americans, he opened the door” to the sport. Even so, for years, his status as an immigrant meant some kept him at arm’s length.

Via Sports Illustrated:

“Still, some Americans won’t credit a domestic distance-running rebirth to a man born in Africa. They whisper and blog. ‘Meb has my respect as a great runner, a great person and a great American,’ says U.S. runner Dathan Ritzenhein, 23. ‘But I’m sure it’s hard for some people to differentiate between Meb and the East African runners who seem to dominate the sport.’

Says Keflezighi, ‘All because my name is difficult to pronounce.’”

After his 2004 silver medal-winning performance, he was snubbed by Frank Shorter, the legendary marathoner and the last American to finish in the top three in 1976. When asked by Sports Illustrated why he never called to offer his congratulations, Shorter said, “Meb’s performances speak for themselves,” refusing to explain his decision other than brusquely stating, “I’m not going to talk about it.”

But those early, reflexive spasms of xenophobia have begun to fade, particularly following his unexpected 2014 triumph in Boston, a marathon in which Keflezighi had competed with the names of the three bombing victims scrawled on his bib.

“On the day after the race, Meb recalls seeing a story on the internet. ‘The headline was, HE’S ONE OF US,’ says Meb. At least that is the way he remembers it. He’s quite certain of the sentiment. For a long time, some people thought Meb wasn’t American enough, when in fact he was everything that American aspires to be. Or once aspired to be.”

The odds are low that Keflezighi has one more jarring upset left in him, let alone a finish anywhere near the top of the leaderboard. For now, completing was enough, regardless of the time on the clock. On Saturday, he celebrated with his family, and when he crossed the finish line for the last time, he collapsed in their embrace.

As he told Sports Illustrated, “My story is the American dream.”

via David Leavitt / Twitter and RealTargetTori / Twitter

Last Friday, GOOD reported on an infuriating incident that went down at a Massachusetts Target.

A Target manager who's come to be known as "Target Tori," was harassed by Twitter troll David Leavitt for not selling him an $89 Oral-B Pro 5000 toothbrush for a penny.

He describes himself as a "multimedia journalist who has worked for CBS, AXS, Yahoo, and others."

Keep Reading
via David Leavitt / Twitter

Anyone who has ever worked in retail knows that the worst thing about the job, right after the pay, are the unreasonable cheapskates who "want to talk to your manager" to get some money off an item.

They think that throwing a tantrum will save them a few bucks and don't care if they completely embarrass themselves in the process. Sometimes that involves belittling the poor employee who's just trying to get through their day with an ounce of dignity.

Twitter is rallying around a gal named Tori who works at a Target in Massachusetts after she was tweet-shamed by irate chapekate, journalist, and Twitter troll, David Leavitt.

Keep Reading
via Haldean Brown / Flickr

In a typical work day, people who smoke take more breaks than those who do not. Every few hours they pop outside to have a smoke and usually take a coworker with them.

Don Bryden, Managing director at KCJ Training and Employment Solutions in Swindon, England, thinks that nonsmokers and smokers should be treated equally, so he's giving those who refrain from smoking four extra days to compensate.

Funny enough, Bryden is a smoker himself.

Keep Reading